“You're reading the Jamelle Bouie newsletter, for Times subscribers only. Historical context for present-day events.
One of the recurring points I make in my column is that the Republican Party, from the most junior state lawmaker to senators in Washington, has turned against many of the hallmarks of a functional political system, including a commitment to fairness and following the process. There are almost always new examples of Republican politicians rejecting any result or rule that doesn’t favor their interests, and this week we have two.
The first is in Michigan, where pro-choice canvassers obtained more than enough signatures to put an abortion-rights amendment to the state Constitution on the November ballot. The goal of such an amendment, beyond establishing the right to an abortion in the state, is to pre-empt a law, originally enacted in the 19th century, that bans abortion with only limited exceptions for the life of the mother.
Canvassers met the requirements, but Republicans on the Board of State Canvassers decided that was not enough. As the law professor Leah Litman explains for Slate magazine, Republicans “mounted a spurious challenge to the Michigan ballot initiative, arguing that the petitions contained less than optimal spacing between the words on the petition. That’s right: There were no missing words in the petition; no misleading words; no inaccurate words. Just some words they felt should have been spaced further apart.”
Because the board is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, the Republican challenge means the amendment will not be on the November ballot, pending a final judgment from the Michigan Supreme Court. The whole debacle is practically farcical in its bad faith and insincerity. Had this been an amendment to ban abortion, there is no question that Republican officials would have allowed it on the ballot; after all, as the Supreme Court said in its opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, each state is now able to decide for itself how it wants to handle abortion rights.
A neutral reader might understand this to mean that the people of each state can choose, democratically, to either protect or restrict abortion rights, but Michigan Republicans seem to see it as a more limited grant of freedom: Voters can either restrict abortion or do nothing at all. They cannot, and will not, be allowed to protect it.
The second example of Republican contempt for rules that don’t favor their interests comes from Alaska, where Mary Peltola, a Democrat, won the special election to fill Alaska’s House seat through early next year. Peltola faced off against Sarah Palin, former governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate, as well as Nick Begich, a Republican businessman. Alaska uses ranked-choice voting in both state and federal elections, and a crucial percentage of Begich’s supporters had marked Peltola as their second-choice candidate. When he was eliminated from the race after his third-place finish, the redistribution of those voters to Peltola put her over the top.
The process is straightforward, but in the wake of Peltola’s historic victory — she will be the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress as well as the first Democrat to hold the seat in 50 years — Republicans cried fraud. “Ranked-choice voting is a scam to rig elections,” said Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Twitter. Josh Hammer, a conservative commentator, said he was “calling for a complete and total shutdown of ranked-choice voting until we can figure out what the hell is going on.”
As for Palin, she complained that “the people of Alaska do not want the destructive Democrat agenda to rule our land and our lives, but that’s what resulted from someone’s experiment with this new crazy, convoluted, confusing ranked-choice voting system.”
There’s nothing unfair or complicated about ranked-choice voting. The issue for Republicans, in this case, is that they lost. But rather than accept this loss and move on to fight another day, they have gone with what appears to be the now-standard response to defeat: to attack and undermine the system itself.
What I Wrote
My Tuesday column was another look at the student loan forgiveness debate, focusing on public opinion and the history of student loans themselves.
There is a broader context for this support. The student loan debt crisis has at least some of its origins in decisions made during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s to reduce state support for higher education and induce Americans to take out loans so that they might have “skin in the game.” This was part of a larger agenda to degrade the social infrastructure of public life, as policymakers traded easy credit and access to cheap consumer goods for high wages and a measure of economic security.
And in the latest episode of my podcast with John Ganz, we discuss Bill Duke’s 1992 movie “Deep Cover” with Adam Serwer of The Atlantic as a special guest.
Margaret Talbot on Justice Samuel Alito for The New Yorker.
Constance Grady on Tom Cruise for Vox.
John-Baptiste Oduor on Adolph L. Reed Jr. for New Left Review.
Laurence H. Tribe on the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization for The New York Review of Books.
Marc Edward Hoffman on Mikhail Gorbachev for Bookforum.
Seen while walking around Philadelphia last weekend.
Now Eating: Farro Salad With Beets, Greens and Feta
I made this for lunch this week and it was great, especially with some tinned mackerel from Jose Gourmet. You can use any kind of beet, but I prefer golden beets. Try to find a bushel of beets with a lot of beet greens, since they are an important part of this recipe. And don’t skimp on the herbs either. Makes about six to eight servings. Recipe from NYT Cooking.
2 medium or 3 small beets (any color) with greens, the beets roasted, the greens stemmed and washed in two changes of water
1 cup farro, soaked for one hour in water to cover and drained
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced or puréed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (may substitute 1 to 2 tablespoons walnut oil for 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil)
½ cup broken walnut pieces
2 ounces feta or goat cheese, crumbled (more if desired for garnish)
at least ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, marjoram, chives, or mint
Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Fill a bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, add salt to taste and the greens. Blanch for two minutes, and transfer to the ice water. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and set aside.
Bring the water back to a boil, and add the farro. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, stirring from time to time, or until the farro is tender. Remove from the heat and allow the grains to swell in the cooking water for 10 minutes, then drain.
While the farro is cooking, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the vinegars, salt, garlic and mustard. Whisk in the oil(s). Add to the farro. Peel and dice the beets and add, along with the beet greens, feta or goat cheese, herbs and walnuts. Toss together, and serve warm or at room temperature with a little more cheese sprinkled over the top if you wish.“